For days now, NFL clubs have been allowed to talk to agents. For days now, NFL clubs have been able to — taking a page from the NBA — agree to deals in principle. There was no three-day window, as originally expected, for a club to negotiate with its own free agents.
But days have passed, and, as far as anyone can tell, the Bears haven’t aggressively attempted to re-sign Olin Kreutz. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, did not respond to three separate emails over the last two days, to provide an update on his client.
But it’s been a whirlwind few days and, once again, the Bears are taking a public beating.
Let’s be honest here, folks. You’re a tough crowd. That’s become evident to me in my year and half covering this team.
While other teams are wheeling and dealing, the Bears have largely been quiet, despite having $34 million in salary cap space.
Bears president Ted Phillips told me last week that the work his staff had done in advance of free agency was “tremendous.”
“So my hat’s off to them,” Phillips said. “I know we’re ready, and we have a good plan.”
Apparently, the plan was not to jump into it quickly. The Bears have been deliberate, their first deal seemingly agreed to in principle with punter Adam Podlesh. They addressed the tight end position, trading Greg Olsen, dumping Brandon Manumaleuna and signing Matt Spaeth.
They’re also expected to sign Sam Hurd and Roy Williams, a pair of former Dallas Cowboys receivers, today.
They’ve also been signing draft picks, inquiring about other players (Willie Colon, Stephen Bowen, etc…) and fielding numerous calls from agents.
But, as I’ve warned in the past, the Bears had better not be too coy and play games with Kreutz. Yes, Kreutz and his agent Mark Bartelstein are both on record as wanting to sign another deal with the Bears. Yes, he’s given up money to stay.
But the Bears should drop everything and sign Kreutz today.
UPDATE: Negotiations are ongoing but Kreutz was not signed as of Friday night around 9 p.m.
It’s believed the Bears are in the market for another offensive lineman. And there are plenty available on the market, including a perennial Pro Bowl guard named Brian Waters.
But there’s no reason to let Kreutz sit on the sideline, without actively trying to retain him.
Kreutz has shown his loyalty, something that’s obviously important to him. He always fiercely defends his teammates and his coaches, sometimes at his own expense. But, he also strikes me as a guy who, when he doesn’t feel the loyalty reciprocated, will turn his back.
And, seeming like a man of principle, there would be no amount of money — an extra $500,000 or $1 million even — that would change his mind. Kreutz doesn’t seem all that flashy, and he’s made a lot of money over his career.
But, he and his agent have always insisted that all they want is a fair deal. That’s obviously subjective, and maybe the Bears want Kreutz to recognize what the market is, by letting his agent field offers and calls from other clubs.
Still, it would seem the time is now to get proactive, instead of reactive.
The Bears players officially report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais today. The Bears changed the media availability from lunch time to 5 p.m. Bears coach Lovie Smith and maybe quarterback Jay Cutler could be among those who talk.
Maybe they’ll even introduce a few of the new players.
But what more fitting way to start camp than to have announce the re-signing of Kreutz, who would be preparing for his 14th NFL season, all with the Bears.
He’s 34 years old, and he’s obviously not the same player he was when he was regularly playing in the Pro Bowl. But, by numerous accounts, he’s had a terrific offseason because he’s been injury free and able to actually build strength instead of just trying to maintain it or rehab an ailing body part or two… or three.
With an entire offseason decimated by the protracted labor talks, the Bears’ leadership needs to be in place, so they can be efficient. Unlike many other teams, the Bears continuity is a strength. And with J’Marcus Webb expected to slide to left tackle, and rookie Gabe Carimi adjusting to NFL life on the fly at right, Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice needs some help to get that unit cohesive.
And few — ask anyone throughout the locker room — means more as a leader than Kreutz.